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Overly Attached to Cats

This past year my 18 year old brother died. We were very close. In my time of grief his cats (my childhood cats) were my only source of comfort. I was never close to my mother- during my teenage years we had constant physical and emotional fights. I was always somewhat distant with my father. I have an uncomfortable relationship with my stepmom and stepsister despite making our peace. In my lifetime I have never really been able to hold on to friends for long. I occasionally meet with a high school friend and a college friend, but both have better friends they prefer to hang out with. I had another group of friends, but one of those friendships was toxic, and when I cut off that friendship the other friends stopped talking to me. Despite being in a few relationships, I have never had romantic feelings for anyone. Mainly I got into such relationships out of pity, or curiosity. I have never really been attracted sexually to anyone despite having a regular sex drive. I am currently on medication for depression and ADHD. Despite getting a master’s degree, I work a demeaning food service job. My student loans are quite large, so this year I moved in with my dad. I find this fact humiliating, but I have been unable to find decent work. Because of this I have been considering a high-paying teaching job abroad, especially since I don’t have any real attachments here. And being an avid traveller and having moved far before, I know the revitalizing effect it would have on me. The problem is that these cats are 17 years old and I’m afraid they won’t have much time to live. If I left and they died, I would be devastated, even possibly to the point of not wanting to live anymore. They would be fed and taken care of, but my other family members don’t really care about them. I couldn’t live with myself knowing their last moments were without love. But it’s getting harder to live with this feeling of not being fulfilled and I feel silly for wanting to put my life on hold for cats, especially since they could live another 5 or more years, but they are basically the only satisfying relationship I’ve ever had. I am at a loss for what to do.

Thank you for your thoughtful question and concern. I think there are three ways to view this that may be of help. First, the teaching job sounds like a good fit and revitalization sounds right. So the plan would be to make the transition to this job work, not letting it go. In other words, let’s see this as a shift toward you moving on and finding a satisfactory solution for your beloved cats.

Second, I would consider the possibility of taking the cats with you and making arrangements for their care in the country you are going to. There are several features of this perspective that I think you may find useful. While you are teaching you may be able to care directly for the cats yourself, thus extending the time with them while enhancing your own career and life choices. Then, while you are traveling, you would be able to arrange for care by either a trusted person or a care facility. This way you get the best of both worlds. You extend the time with your cats and have the direct responsibility for arranging their care, while at the same time taking care of yourself.

Finally, if you do choose to leave them, as you go I would invest in finding them a caring, loving home. Interview people who would want to care for them and find folks who have the interest and ability to extend the love you have given them.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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